Russel Andrews, Ph.D.
University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
and the Alaska SeaLife Center
Diving into the abyss (virtually) with marine mammals.
Wednesday — October 17, 2012
Pacific Forum — 3:00 p.m.
To study the behavior and physiology of marine mammals that swim far from shore and dive deep beneath the waves, we use biotelemetry to "virtually" dive along with them. Although we've recorded heart rates, body temperatures, and metabolic rates of freely diving pinnipeds, and put cameras on their heads to see what they are eating, most deep-diving whales remain an enigma because of the difficulties of attaching devices to animals that don't come ashore and don't have fur to glue to. We've recently developed new attachment techniques for toothed-whales, leading to the discovery that some beaked whales are diving to nearly 3,000 meters (nearly twice the previous record) and holding their breath for over two hours. Our studies of elephant seal physiology might shed some light on how these whales can make these amazing dives, but to really figure out what they are doing down there and how they can handle the pressure, new technology is needed.